News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Sacramento doctor sworn in as medical association president
Sacramento Business Journal

Dr. Paul Phinney, a Sacramento pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente, was elected president of the California Medical Association on Sunday. The trade group’s annual House of Delegates meeting continues today in Sacramento. The legislative body for the trade group elects a new president, debates issues and establishes policies at the annual three-day event. Every other year it’s held in Anaheim.

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Mandatory Use of CPOE Prevents Blood Clots
Health Leaders Media

An effort to force Johns Hopkins doctors to order appropriate treatment to prevent venous thromboembolism or blood clots in their trauma patients has paid off, with more patients getting appropriate medications and fewer patients developing potentially lethal clots. That’s according to a report in the Archives of Surgery by Elliott Haut, MD, associate professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and colleagues, including Peter Pronovost, MD.

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Pharmacy Aligns With Hospitals to Reduce Readmissions
Health Leaders Media

Pharmacy giant Walgreens announced a program Tuesday that it believes will help hospitals reduce readmissions by using pharmacists to coordinate patient care during admission and discharge.

Hospitals are under the gun to lower average readmission rates since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) started assessing financial penalties October 1.

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New Institute of Medicine members include 9 from Bay Area
San Francisco Business Times

The Institute of Medicine, a prestigious national honorary and advisory group in health and medicine, has named 70 new U.S. members and 10 new foreign ones. Nine are from the Bay Area and 15 are from the Golden State. Bay Area honorees hailed from South San Francisco-based Genentech (one), Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente (one), Stanford University (four) and the University of Calilfornia, San Francisco (three).

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Health shift will affect 860,000 Calif. children
Sacramento Bee

California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley said she is confident the state can eliminate a health insurance program serving more than 860,000 children from low-income families without disrupting the quality of care.

The state is eliminating its Healthy Families program and moving those children into the state’s Medicaid program to save a projected $73 million a year. A state Senate committee has scheduled a hearing Tuesday to examine the transition.

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Prop. 30’s big donors include big companies
San Francisco Chronicle

The lion’s share of campaign donations for Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-raising Proposition 30 has come from public employee unions, but the effort also has the backing of many businesses, some of which do not appear to have a direct connection to the initiative. Disney, Sony, CBS, NBC, Viacom, Warner Bros. and other entertainment businesses have given Prop. 30 a total of nearly $1 million. Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Occidental Petroleum and other energy companies have thrown in roughly $1 million between them.

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Local governments take budget knife to retiree health plans
Yahoo! News

As cash-strapped U.S. cities and states struggle to address gaping budget holes, a long-honored benefit for public-sector workers has come into the cross-hairs of budget cutters: retiree health insurance. A growing number of states and cities are eliminating or reducing health coverage for retirees, a benefit that has long fallen by the wayside for most private-sector workers. But the coverage, which has meant that most retired public workers have all their medical bills fully paid, is expensive and hugely underfunded.

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Some employers offer aid to retirees after cutting their health insurance
Washington Post

In the past 20 years, the number of companies that provide retiree health coverage has dropped dramatically, leaving seniors with the difficult task of choosing among a variety of plans to supplement their Medicare benefits. It is a choice that can be confusing and has large financial implications. But a move by some employers is softening the blow. They are contracting with companies that operate insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, where Medicare-eligible retirees can enroll in plans to replace what they used to get from the employer.

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Guidance on health reform law’s Transitional Reinsurance Program requested
Modern Healthcare

The American Benefits Council is asking federal regulators for guidance on the Transitional Reinsurance Program, an obscure but costly healthcare reform law-created program that will require self-funded employers to pay billions of dollars that will partially reimburse commercial insurers writing policies for individuals with very high healthcare costs.

The first-year assessment for the three-year program, which begins in 2014, is expected to be in a range of $60 to $90 per healthcare plan participant.

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Vintners give $1.9 million to health care
Napa Valley Register

Three of Napa County’s largest health care providers will receive grants totaling more than $1.9 million from the Napa Valley Vintners trade association.

The organization announced Monday its first set of grants from the proceeds of the 2012 Auction Napa Valley fundraiser. Another $5 million will be awarded in later announcements.

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Tri-City candidate was accused of patient dumping
North County Times

A candidate for the elected Tri-City Healthcare District board of directors has a record that includes turning around a hospital in Orange County — one that was also accused of dumping patients on Skid Row under his leadership.

Wayne Lingenfelter is one of eight people vying for four seats on the board that operates the Tri-City Hospital and offers health care for nearly 500,000 residents in Carlsbad, Oceanside and Vista.

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Santa Cruz County’s top public health official abruptly resigns
The Mercury News

County health officer Dr. Poki Namkung, who has been at the center of many of the county’s highest-profile public health debates, resigned abruptly Sunday. In her resignation letter, Namkung outlined a list of accomplishments, including establishing annual county health reports, forming a public health crisis response team and working to fight childhood obesity.

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Premium-support model would have been costlier for most Medicare beneficiaries: study
Modern Healthcare

About 59% of Medicare beneficiaries would have paid higher Medicare premiums in 2010 under a premium-support system if they had remained in their same plan and if such a model had been implemented, a new Kaiser Family Foundation study concludes. In their nearly 50-page analysis, authors Gretchen Jacobson, Tricia Neuman and Anthony Damico examined the premium-support approach that connects federal payments to the second-lowest cost plan offered in an area, or traditional Medicare—whichever is lower.

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CVS to pay $5 million to settle drug pricing allegations
Modern Healthcare

The Justice Department says a unit of CVS Caremark has agreed to pay over $5 million to settle allegations that it reported false prescription drug pricing data to the government’s Medicare program.

Federal investigators say CVS’ RxAmerica subsidiary reported false information about the prices of generic prescription drugs between 2007 and 2008. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services incorporated this information in an online tool, which seniors could use to estimate their out-of-pocket drug expenses.

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Walgreens announces medication-management deals with hospitals
Modern Healthcare

Retail pharmacy giant Walgreens said it will deliver prescriptions to hospitalized patients and manage their medications for the first 30 days after they leave the hospital under new contracts with a dozen hospitals and health systems.

Walgreens and hospitals will target patients with complex, chronic disease under the contracts, which began with an initial pilot in January, said Joel Wright, vice president of health systems operations at Walgreens.

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Hospitals Ditch Formula Samples to Promote Breast-Feeding
New York Times

For years, virtually every new mother has been sent home from the hospital with a gift bag full of free product samples, including infant formula. Now health authorities and breast-feeding advocates are leading a nationwide effort to ban formula samples, which often come in stylish bags with formula company logos. Health experts say they can sway women away from breast-feeding.

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Database features trends in health care workforce, education
Sacramento Business Journal

For the first time, a detailed database on the health-care workforce and education trends in California is available through the Office of Statewide Health Development and Planning. The Healthcare Workforce Clearinghouse provides numbers of providers by occupation and county, projected annual job openings, some wage information and educational programs that train these kinds of professionals. The first two reports focus on the number of doctors and registered nurses.

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Medical societies offer guidelines on shift from SGR
Modern Healthcare

The American Medical Association and more than a 100 state and specialty medical societies issued a set of principles that they say can support a federal transition from the sustainable growth-rate formula to a “higher performing Medicare program.” In an Oct. 15 letter to Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the groups called for lawmakers to repeal the Medicare physician payment formula, arguing that eliminating the SGR formula is essential to the development of a high performing Medicare program.

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Insurer UnitedHealth’s 3Q profit jumps 23 percent
San Francisco Chronicle

UnitedHealth Group’s third-quarter net income jumped 23 percent to trump expectations, as preparations for retiring Baby Boomers started to pay off for the nation’s largest health insurer. UnitedHealth also raised its 2012 earnings forecast. The Minnetonka, Minn., company said Tuesday its Medicare and retirement revenue swelled by $1.2 billion, as Medicare Advantage enrollment grew by 400,000 people compared to last year.

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Hospital CPI rises 0.6% in September; doc office prices go up 0.5%
Modern Healthcare

Consumer prices for hospital services increased 0.6% in September after a 0.4% drop in August, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. In September 2011, the hospital CPI increased 0.3%. For the year ended last month, hospital consumer prices increased 5% compared with 5.4% the prior year. Inpatient hospital prices increased 0.5% last month after a 0.7% drop in August. Outpatient hospital consumer prices climbed 0.7% in September following the prior month’s 0.4% decline.

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Answering questions about long-term care insurance
Sacramento Business Journal

Long-term care insurance is a big issue at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System this week, but consumers have been asking questions for years. A CalPERS committee will debate a whopping 85 percent hike in rates Tuesday; if approved, the full board will vote on Wednesday. The increase will affect 115,000 of the CalPERS members with long-term care insurance.

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